1868, Fraysner's Harbour
Adelyn had always loved the idea of adventure, but right then the idea didn't settle right in her stomach. She knew that a quest for a witch's island in the middle of the ocean would be no hike through the woods.
Nik hadn't outright asked her to go with them, but it had been more than implied. Adelyn wondered if he would have given her the option at all. She felt as though it would have been more of a demand. He'd seemed almost desperate, and he didn't seem the type to let the things he wanted walk away.
She was a part of a key that pirates had long since been after, and she knew not all of them would be as kind as Nik. The way she saw it, it would either be the young Captain Nik, or someone more like Captain Greywell. Either way, Adelyn had immersed herself in something she wasn't likely to escape anytime soon.
And the promise of riches wasn't entirely unintising, either.
Nik had offered to walk her back to Anne Marten's, but she had declined. She'd had enough trouble for one night, and something told her Harlem would already be riled up enough without the pirate at her side when she walked through the door. The air between those to boys hadn't been something Adelyn had liked being surrounded by.
She'd said her goodbyes to him at the port, promising to meet him at there the next morning, just after dawn. Adelyn had agreed, though she hadn't thought it through. She knew they'd be setting sail, and she couldn't just not tell Harlem. She would have to tell him something, but the question was, what?
When Adelyn stumbled up the front steps, Harlem pushed the door open. He'd been waiting for her, just as she'd guessed. He'd always been the worrying kind, fretting over her just as often as she fretted over him.
"Adelyn," he said, his voice quiet in the open doorway. The streets around them were quiet; even Franny's house was dead silent. Adelyn stepped passed him inside, her shoes clicking on the wooden floors. She reached down to pull them off of her feet, scared that the sound would wake those that slept throughout the house. "You were gone for ages. I was worried."
"No need for you to worry about me, Harlem." Adelyn said, smiling. "I'm no defenseless wench."
"Noted," Harlem sighed. "Did you get the.. the pirate his watch back?"
"Indeed," Adelyn said, biting her tongue. If she was going to tell him anything, this was the time. She lifted her hand, holding her palm out towards Harlem. "Got a little something else, too."
"Jesus, Addie." Harlem said, already moving to look for the first aid box. He found it in the back of the linen closet. "That's a bad one."
"Doesn't sting that much anymore," Adelyn lied. She watched as Harlem rifled through the box for the burn cream and a bandage, setting them on the counter next to her open palm. He squeezed a dollop of the serum onto his finger and set to work on the wound, his eyes focused on the task. "There's something else."
"What?" Harlem said, his eyes never leaving her hand. "Is there another burn I should know about?"
"No, nothing like that." Adelyn said. She tried to form the words, but her lips would not move.
Harlem had been Adelyn's best friend and confidant for so long, she thought of him as more of a brother than just a friend. He was the person she'd run to when she was excited or sad, and the person she told everything to. Adelyn was sure he knew more about her than even she knew about herself. It was no question that boarding that ship tomorrow and leaving him there would be the hardest thing she'd ever done.
Adelyn couldn't tell him. He would only try to convince her to stay, or to run from the pirates with him at her side. She couldn't possibly drag Harlem down with her, though. He had a steady job lined up for him the moment he turned eighteen, and Adelyn was sure his life was going to be a long one. She saw a wife and a child, and a small house far away from Fraysner's harbour in his future. Adelyn couldn't jeopardize that for him by dragging him into whatever she'd gotten herself into. There was every possibility of it going awry, and she wouldn't take Harlem down with her.
"Addie?" Harlem said when he noticed she'd gone quiet. He dropped the burn cream back into the first aid bin and begun wrapping the bandage around her hand. Adelyn didn't stop him, even though she knew burns were better left to the air. He was trying to help in the only way he knew he could. "What is it? Something's wrong."
"Nothing's wrong." Adelyn said, blinking away tears. She'd never been one to cry, but it seemed that wouldn't be the case right then. She took in a breath, turning her head to the side so Harlem wouldn't see the streams that fell down her cheeks. "I just wanted to tell you that I think I found a job."
"Really?" Harlem said, not looking up at her. "That's great! That means I don't have to worry about you getting caught stealing anymore. Trust me when I say I'll sleep better at night knowing that."
"Oh, good." Adelyn said, biting her lip. She felt horrid lying to him, but she wasn't sure what else to say.
Harlem put the excess bandage back in the bin and turned to shove it back in the linen closet. Adelyn took that time to wipe at her wet cheeks. When Harlem turned back, she looked nothing like the mess she'd been seconds before. "Well, both of us should be getting some sleep, I should think."
"Probably," Adelyn said, nodding. She followed Harlem up the steps to the second floor, stopping outside her bedroom door. She reached out and grabbed his shoulder before he could get too far, pulling him to her in a hug.
Harlem let out a laugh, but he didn't object. His arms wrapped around her and Adelyn smiled, "You're my best friend, Harlem. Forever and always."
"Forever and always," Harlem repeated, the words coming easily after years of them having been said. He frowned then, pushing her away and looking down at her face. "You're acting strange, Addie. What is it?"
"Nothing," Adelyn said, shaking her head. "I just wanted to say that."
Harlem paused, as if he wanted to say something else. Instead, he shook his head. "Goodnight, Addie."
"Goodnight," Adelyn said, waiting until he'd disappeared inside his room before she stepped into her own.
The two girls in the bed at the end of the room were still fast asleep, just as she'd left them. Adelyn was careful to keep quiet as she dropped her shoes next to the window, digging through the closet until she found one of the other girls' bags. It was small, but Adelyn didn't have that much stuff to bring, anyways. She stuffed it full of an extra dress, a brush, and several other things she thought she might need. Once it was full, she tied it shut and hit it under her blanket.
She closed her eyes and lied down, using the bag and blanket as a pillow under her head. She wanted to sleep, but her mind was too awake. She saw magic and swordfights, reliving bedtime stories from her childhood behind her eyelids.
Adelyn wanted to believe she was excited. She wanted to put on a brave face and go at the world with a fearless heart, but the reality was that she was incredibly and unmistakably afraid. She'd never even left Fraysner's harbour, let alone been on a ship. She feared the ocean's waters, and what else might sail them. She feared the island the arrow in her palm pointed to, unknown and hidden away, with who knows what might be on it.
When sleep finally took her, she did not dream happy dreams. She dreamt of monsters and mayhem, and a pirate who would take her to see it all.
YOU ARE READING
A Game Of Changing TidesFantasy
[Watty's 2018 shortlist] Adelyn's quick hands and knack for thievery had a bad habit of putting her in dangerous situations, but forcing her into the path of Nikolai Kors was the worst of them all. A pirate captain with years of death and des...